Equine Music Therapy


My Haflinger friend Mallory has struggled with a sore front right hoof on and off for years. (Don’t worry, the vet is working on it and she gets good care). She is typically very happy and willing to work with people but a few months ago she did not want to give the farrier her left front leg. He needed to trim her hoof and she knew that, but each time she gave him her leg she had pain in her right hoof. She was nearly laying down to avoid the situation. She and I kept talking and she agreed to try but the pain was upsetting her.

I offered her treats, hoping that would help because she loves to eat. She took the food but it didn’t really help. Then I had a great idea- I would have her play her piano! She loves to play her toy piano, she swishes her top lip over the keys and grumbles while she does it. The solution worked like a charm. As she played the farrier finished her left hoof and she seemed to not even notice. She stood perfectly still and played her music.

She also loves to smile… Um Mallory, you have a little grass stuck in your teeth.
Also, you know me as an animal communicator but I wanted to mention that I started creating portraits of horses (and donkeys) and I am available for commissions. You can check out my work here.


Step on a crack…

The parking lot where we wait for the school bus was recently paved and lines were painted. Ichabod didn’t mind walking on the new pavement but he carefully stepped over the painted lines. I took him there daily and practiced walking across the lot, hoping he would overcome his reluctance to step on the lines. He did not. He told me that the lines looked 3D (as a deep crevice) to him and he really didn’t want to risk stepping on them.

OK Ichabod, you can keep stepping over the lines!

Here is a video of Ichabod stepping over lines. Notice with all of my weaving in and out, I did “trick” him into accidentally stepping on a line with his back hoof a few times. At the end he was so focused on my husband with the camera he stepped right on a line. He was unaware of the mistakes and does not consider it proof of the safety of stepping on lines.



Wonder what animals are thinking?

Ever wonder what your animal friend is thinking? Take a moment to find out… I know you can do it, and here are some tips to get you started.

  • Animals live in the moment. I promise that whatever they are thinking about has to do with right here and now.For example: You look out the window at your horse stomping flies and swishing her tail. She is not thinking: “These flies are worse than yesterday or good thing I get to go back to the barn in 3 hours.” She might be thinking, “Ugh flies, get me out of here!” or “Aah the sun is so warm.”
  • Animals don’t judge themselves, others, or circumstances as morally good or bad the way people do. They may think a particular situation is good or bad for them based on instinct or past experiences but not by a moral compass.For example: You come home to find poop and the floor and your dog is hanging his head. He is not thinking that he was “bad”.  He might be thinking, “When my person comes home and sees poop on the floor she gets upset and I am scared that she is going to (right now) act unpleasantly toward me.”
  • The word jealous does not apply to animals when defined this way: “Envious or resentful of the good fortune or achievements of another.” But it can apply when defined this way: “Vigilant in guarding something.” I prefer to use the words territorial or resource guarding for animals.For example: You are snuggling your cat on the couch and your dog tries to insert himself in the middle of the cuddle or chases the cat off. Your dog is not thinking, “Oh my person loves this other animal more than me.” Your dog might be thinking, “I want that too” or “This person is my source of well-being (territory) and I want this cat out of here”.

Do Animals Have Memories?

The Today Show (several weeks ago) briefly touched on a study about how animals do not have memories (and they don’t have future thoughts). As far as I can tell, from the brief reporting, the study was talking about memory in the sense of “thinking about the past”.

Savanna Guthrie mentioned how this lack of memory didn’t make sense to her because the Today Show puppy remembers tricks he had learned the day before. Here is the deal: memories and knowledge are generally thought of as two different things. Wrangler (the puppy) isn’t lying in his crate remembering yesterday’s training session. When he is asked the do the trick from the day before he also isn’t having thoughts (memories) of yesterday’s training session. He does, however, remember the trick- but he experiences it as knowledge, not as a memory. For example as you read this you know how to read, but you aren’t remembering when you were 5 and learned how to read.

Matt Lauer mentioned that his childhood dog always met him at the bus stop. He wondered how the dog could know to come at that time without a memory. The dog must have been sensitive to his own biological clock and environmental reminders (such as daylight or the mailman’s schedule) to know when to go the the bus stop. Of course the dog did not say to himself at 10 AM, “Oh I must go the the bus stop to meet Matt at 3 PM.”


My experience from asking animals about the past is that they never think about it unless something from the present moment is reminding them to recall their knowledge and experiences from the past. I do believe that animals, including dogs, absolutely have memories when they are triggered (by in the moment circumstances) but I do agree with the study that dogs don’t have memories in the sense of thinking about the past on their own.

I previously wrote about donkeys and their excellent memories. Reading that you can take the word “memory” and change it to “ability to retain knowledge”, if you want to have a new way of thinking about what I wrote above.

Rabbit Poses

My husband and I have had pet rabbits for many years now and we enjoy naming their adorable poses. When we spot a cute rabbit pose we call it out so everyone can enjoy the sight.

Coming very soon I will be sending out a newsletter with tips on how to understand animals better. This post is a fun way of illustrating the most important element of Animal Communication: Enjoying animals. Appreciating them. Being thrilled to have them in your life.

Here are a few of my favorite rabbit poses:

superman clark

Left: Superman and Right: Clark Kent

one ear

Giving an Ear- can be added to most poses. In this case another Superman.

loaf muffin

Left: Muffin and Right: Loaf (with an ear) These two poses are very similar, but the muffin is more round.


Two variations on Slope.


Kickin’ It (One leg instead of two- which would be Superman.)


Croissant (with or without assistance)


Triangulation (requires both cats to execute), in this case also a Muffin.

As always, enjoy your animals!

20 Years of Animal Communication

On my “About” page you will see that I have been a professional animal communicator for 16 years. But it all started a while before that… Sometime around 1995 I purchased a book about animal communication. I was subletting an apartment in Colorado and looking after the cat that lived there. As I read the book I tried the exercises on Sita, a sweet chubby calico girl. One exercise suggested imagining sending the image of a ball to the cat. I really couldn’t tell if I was getting through to her or not. Humble beginnings for sure. Soon after I got the book I woke up with a freshly killed bird on my collarbone and a very proud Sita staring down at me. I screamed and jumped out of bed. Poor Sita, she thought we had a real connection- I was sending imaginary balls and she was offering me a prized hunt, and then I spoiled the whole thing by screaming. We reconnected later and I like to consider her my first official teacher of telepathy.

colorado    sita

Sita in her yard and me on a mountain, both in Colorado 1995.

I have been reflecting so much on the beginning, and everything that has come since then, because this year marks half-way. I am forty and I bought that book when I was twenty, half my life spent in the pursuit of this profession.

I am proud of what I have accomplished. It started with reading books. Then I took workshops from several teachers, and then I practiced a lot. I graduated from college after writing my thesis on Holistic Methods (including telepathy) of Working with Animals- Titled Deepening the Connection. (I had to take the thesis out to remember the title! Now I am so curious to read it again. Some of my ideas have shifted I imagine. If you have access to the library at Goddard College you can read it yourself!) I started with a few clients during college in the years between 1996 and 1998 before I officially started Dawn’s Animal Connection.

Over all these years thousands of people have trusted me with their most precious relationships, best friends, tears, and life stories. And I have never, not once, been bored by an animal. I am still delighted by what they “say”, their sweet faces, their new ideas. Honestly I can talk about animals almost endlessly. Those of you who have attended my workshops know I have a policy: Pause for Cuteness. If at any point an animal becomes more interesting than the class, we all stop and enjoy the moment. I live my life at home that way too. Nothing is more important than a bunny cleaning his ears or a kid cuddled up with a cat.

kidcuddle  facecleaning

Bunny ear cleaning must be seen in person to appreciate the full cuteness.

20 years…
6,000 (human) clients
24,000 consultations
48 states and at least 6 countries (clients in…)
3 children’s books about animals
40 or more articles about animal communication published here (and elsewhere)
70 workshops taught

*these statistics are good estimates, not exact numbers

All of this happened almost exclusively from word of mouth and a few clients who came to me from my website. Pretty amazing right? I have always been one to write out my goals, and I can tell you that these statistics by far exceed the goals I set when I named my business in 1998. Thank you to all of my clients and an extra special thank you to the many clients who have stayed with me for all of these years. Just today I had a session with my first ever client (from 1996!)

May you all enjoy animals as much as I do, and don’t forget to Pause for Cuteness. (And don’t forget to book a session right?)

PS. Announcing a workshop date for this year, May 2-3 2015


Cats Do What They Want

You know that fun icebreaker question when you ask someone which superhero power they would most like to have? I never really settled on an answer until I thought a bit outside the box, then it came to me. The perfect superhero power would be the ability to make cats do what I want! A girl can dream a little right? How about if I could just control where they pee? That would make a lot of my clients happy!

Free will is what makes this whole world fun and scary at the same time. Scary when you start believing that your happiness and survival depend on other people and animals doing what you want, and super fun when you can enjoy the ride and see what delightful surprises in are store. I do a little of both.

I sometimes wonder if cats are in our lives to help us remember that we are not in control of others. They teach us so much right?

My cat, Owen, doles out little lessons each day. One of his favorite teachings is called, “My Chair, Not Yours”. I have a stand-up desk at work, so when I bring up client files and make notes I stand up. Then while consulting I sit down. Basically I stand then sit at least 15 times each morning. Almost every time I stand, Owen slips in and curls up on my chair. He has his own couch, but of course my chair is more desirable (and warm). One morning I moved him 8 times. “How annoying”, he said! Sometimes I just give up and work standing up.

When Owen decides he wants to sit somewhere, very little can deter him. Even a too small box will not stand in his way.

A wonderful client wrote to me, “… that you have a similar Tuxedo boy is heartening… if a pet communicator and lover of animals is subject to the whims of her kitty then it is not isolated to me.” I love this note! So true, we are on the same ride because communication and control are not synonymous. I understand what animals are thinking and feeling. Often in the process of understanding, solutions to various issues can be found, however that does not mean that my cat does whatever I want.

I find that loving and appreciating my animals is one of the most enriching aspects of life. I am so thrilled that I can’t control them, because if I could, I wouldn’t be surprised by donkey brays, and bunny snuggles, and cat purrs.

Owen carefully laid next to the dominoes, staring at us and tempting fate, then slowly lowered himself on top of the tower as dominoes crashed around him.

Mallory Models


My new children’s book, Animal Fairy Magic, co-written by my daughter Hannah, was just released last week. We had a book launching party on Saturday which was amazingly fun. All of my animals are in the book, and Mallory is the co-star (along with Hannah).


For the party I braided ribbons into Mallory’s mane. (Ichabod watched me intently and insisted on having his own ribbon. I gave him a blue bow in his forelock.)  Then, each kid at the party had a chance to model on Mallory- recreating the book cover. Mallory was very patient and looked beautiful. She had fun offering her “smile” trick for the camera!


Of course Mallory loves performing so she also played her toy piano for the crowd. (I really must get a proper video of that for you.) She has enhanced her “style” and it is so cute! Ichabod is also learning the piano and he played a few notes too.

The fairy models had such a fun time playing together and signing books.



I read one of the chapters to the crowd, “Owen Gets Painted”.


If you want to see a preview of the book it is on Amazon, and it is on sale too.


Donkeys Remember Everything

The issue of whether or not donkeys are stubborn has been explored in books and online. Basically they have reasons for the things they do and don’t do, so technically they aren’t stubborn. BUT… when you are living with a donkey it is hard to resist the urge to think, “This animal is stubborn!” I have experienced that often it is the impeccable memory of the donkey that leads to them to act “stubborn”.

I am working on overcoming my exasperation with my donkeys by really carefully listening to them when we work together. Asking the donkeys, “What are you noticing? What is different? What are you expecting?” For example, Ichabod will not be lead on my left side. He insists, “That is not how I do it.” In other words when he was trained to lead he remembered the details, such as the side his trainer was on and he wants to stick with the rules!

A few days ago I had a great clicker training session with Ichabod. Toward the end I wanted to work on a new trick. I dropped the lead rope on the ground to free my hands. He dropped his nose to the rope, then looked at me. This was not what I was asking him to do. But then… he reminded me that I had taught him to touch ropes on the ground with his nose. (It is a good “safety” trick in case a rider drops the reins.) Of course I rewarded his good memory then asked him to continue our other lesson. He kept putting his head down to the rope, ignoring my “new” topic. I realized at that point he wasn’t being stubborn, he was just sticking with his topic instead of mine. In such an instance my horse would have easily moved on, but my donkey was not going to move on. Easily fixed by moving the rope!

Part of the issue with me and the donkeys is that I am not the best clicker trainer. I try and I am OK, but donkeys are very specific, have impeccable memories, and get very attached to things being a certain way. I must constantly look at my own behavior and ask myself, “Are you being consistent?” They also come with memories from before I met them, so I need to be listening and understanding their beliefs about how training “should” be.

Another thing that has really helped me relax about donkeys, is to stop being attached to them doing what I want. (Of course safe behaviors are still essential.) I find when I love them, enjoy their company, and stay unattached, we all have a nicer time.

Rabbits Chewing and a New Book

Pet rabbits will chew your stuff. Really they will. People ask me, “How do you keep him from chewing your wires?” Well here is my answer: I move my wires.

Rabbits need to chew daily to keep their teeth from growing too long. That may be why your rabbit chews things like your baseboards. Maybe. But it is not usually why your rabbit chews wires.

Rabbits plan their escape routes in advance. When you see a wild bunny zigzagging through a meadow into the briars, that is not random. In an absolute emergency they may go off course, but normally the escape has been practiced and planned. They run the course daily clipping any vines or briars out of the way so they have a clear, rabbit sized path, to move through swiftly when being chased.

bunnynews   bunnews2

(See he just had to move that Lego house!)

Your sweet indoor bun is simply clearing his escape routes when he clips your wires. Usually rabbits like to plan sneaky escapes, so squeezing behind the couch is a favorite path of many pet rabbits. People often have wires behind their furniture to “hide” the wires. You can see the rabbit’s only option is to clip those intrusive “vines”.

My rabbit Bramley used to keep the couch “clean”, as it was one of his escape routes. He would take my daughters books and toys and toss them like a Frisbee (from his mouth) onto the floor. Once the entire couch was clear he would flop down and relax.


(Legos everywhere!)

Moral of the story: Your rabbit will plan an escape route (or 2 or 3). You can learn what his plan is by watching how he hops through the house. Then you won’t put anything you don’t want chewed in his path. (Sometimes rabbits even decide your couch is in the way.)

I know it would be nice if I could just “tell” the rabbit not to chew. And sometimes that works or at least helps, but going against their nature is very difficult. Moving your stuff is generally easier.

Speaking of Bramley: I wrote a sequel to my children’s book (Bramley’s Little Sister). The new book, Bramley’s Big Family is available on Amazon and the 2nd edition of Bramley’s Little Sister is also on Amazon.

Perfect for an Easter Basket!

Here is a little sneak peak:


forweb17  forweb25  forweb26


The above article has been written based on feedback from rabbits. I don’t know what “science” says about this escape route concept.